Have you ever asked yourself the question “WHO AM I”? When it comes to the 4th Niyama, Study of the Self, one might wonder how does a person study themselves and what is involved with that? To study anything requires a person to be curious, focused, and inquisitive. A person must have the desire to study something in order to be able to understand and integrate what they have learned and apply it to their life. Study of the Self is no different. One thing I am noticing through the practicing of the Yama’s and Niyama’ s is that by applying them to my life I am, at the same time, working on Svadhayaya - Self Study . By exploring all the other yoga practices we become clearer in how we think, what our habits are, what we need to work on and where our strengths are that we can draw from. These practices required us to observe ourselves on and off the yoga mat, exploring and questioning the quality of our relationships, the intentions behind our actions, and shifting our new awareness into our everyday life. By focusing on and observing ourselves we deepen our understanding of our human body, mind and consciousness and develop awareness of our true essence.
Without the practice of Self Study we can easily think that we are just the body, the part of us that we see when we stand in front of the mirror. When we only see this part of ourselves we risk wrapping ourselves in the dramas and dilemmas, our roles and responsibilities that we find ourselves in and can often mistake our identity with everything that is outside of us. Svadhayaya suggests that there is more to us than meets the eye and requires the practitioner to go inward to the core of our being, our essence, our Divine Self.
When I talk about exploring the Self as Divine, I am referring to the interplay of each of us in the Divine order that we are all part and parcel of. In this modern world, scientists are being able to see and break things down into smaller and smaller particles and are seeing that the universe is made up of energy that is all connected. Likewise yoga invites us to study ourselves and the deeper we go, the more we see how we are all connected and how we all affect each other and the world around us.
We can practice this Niyama by staying present in the moment, by examining our breath and the spaces between each of them and applying them to movement or holding a posture. WE can practice it through meditation, prayer, service, reading sacred texts, seeking counsel from a spiritual teacher or leader, or joining a spiritual gathering to surround ourselves in support. The word yoga means to unite body, mind and soul. To practice yoga is to practice Awareness of Self. Through this refined awareness we see that “I AM” is part of universal consciousness itself, and Sat Nam is revealed.